By Tracey L. Walters (auth.)
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Extra resources for African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: Black Women Writers from Wheatley to Morrison
Wheatley proved that if given the opportunity, Black people could not only write poetry but could write it well. Acquiring knowledge of the classics allowed Wheatley to challenge the racist belief of her time that Black people were racially and intellectually inferior. Wheatley threatens the institution of slavery because she represents the potential ability of all slaves to become educated and establish their humanity. A reviewer for the British publication Critical Review argues this point: “Negroes of Africa are generally treated as a dull, ignorant, and ignoble race of men, fit only to be slaves, and incapable of any considerable attainments in the liberal arts and sciences.
But Medea is determined to make Jason suffer the agony she has experienced and she tells the women she must kill her sons because it will be “the supreme way to hurt my husband” (58). Although Euripides emphasizes Medea’s determination to kill her sons, he does not depict Medea as a merciless, unloving mother. At times Medea is actually conflicted about her 34 AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE AND THE CLASSICIST TRADITION decision. At one point, for example, she contemplates taking her sons away with her: “Why damage them in trying to hurt their father, and only hurt myself twice over?
LaChiusa’s play featured African American opera singer Audra McDonald as Medea. LaChiusa’s portrayal of Medea as a Black woman was not the first. Countee Cullen’s translation of Euripides’ Medea for The Medea and Some Poems (1935), presented an African American Medea. Rankine notes, Cullen uses the play to present “the issue of race in America—blackness—as a parallel to the Greek-barbarian dichotomy” (97). Rankine also observes that for his play Medea, Cullen “had a black actress, Rose McClendon, in mind to play the role of Medea” (97).
African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: Black Women Writers from Wheatley to Morrison by Tracey L. Walters (auth.)